Martin Carthy

Folk Cellar, The Central Theatre – Chatham If you’re sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin…late, very late. Having spent too long bathing in the inky depths of a Guinness – contemplating traditional folk music and the art of great story-telling – I quietly stumble into The Folk Cellar and across The Hot Rats Duo, halfway through their set. With an affable wit, Dougie Hudson travels from
Russia to England in the space of 15 minutes. He sweeps us along on a rhythmic, six-string tide, over which the whirling-dervish fingers of Ian Cutler dance and glide with fiddled intent. The Hot Rats Duo can tell a compelling story with skillful dexterity and finish with a traditional tale that has been passed on, handed down and moulded to fit. How old is it? Count the rings round the troubadour’s eyes. 

Warmly alert, Carthy’s eyes belie his age. Although it’s been over 40 years since his debut, eponymous release, he greets us with a youthful glint. Cited as an indelible influence by artists including Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Graham Coxon, Carthy has been described by Q Magazine as “arguably the greatest English folk song performer, writer, collector and editor of them all”.  Tonight he demonstrates why. Starting on the other side of the world, with the distant lament of Jim Jones In Botany Bay, Carthy takes us on physical and emotional journeys, through the eyes of folk who ultimately experience a pitiful demise. With contorted mouth and graceful fingers, he passionately expresses the whims, wishes and withering ends of a colourful clutch of characters. The lovelorn Jacky Tar. A wanton soul in the bowels of limbo. And the death-owl hoots of Peggy And The Soldier, as they languish in the tower of flints. Carthy’s sparse, and often complex guitar playing adds harmonic depth to wonderfully sung tales that echo through shadowy recesses of the imagination. He closes on a rare up-note, by defeating the devil. With that the book is closed, for tonight at least. As he packs away, Carthy can be seen in animated conversation with a youthful fan; passing on, handing down. The story continues.

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